First Drive: 2010 Jaguar XFR

#Jaguar, #XF

Mike O'Driscoll, Jaguar's longtime managing director, is a happy man these days. Sure, Jaguar is just as susceptible to the worldwide economic slowdown as any other purveyor of luxury goods, but O'Driscoll's eyes light up when he explains that the company's lineup is undergoing a wholesale metamorphosis in the twenty-four-month period that began in January 2008 and ends this December. The misbegotten X-type is gone; the all-new XJ, reportedly a stunner, will be in dealerships by December; and the XF sedan gets new V-8 engines for the 2010 model year (as do the XK coupe and convertible), including a supercharged version that powers the new, high-performance XFR.

The XFR marks Jaguar's second modern-day foray into a realm long dominated by the Germans: mainstream luxury sedans pumped up with sports car hardware.

The 2003-2008 Jaguar S-type R had its charms, but in the race for power, prestige, and performance, it barely got out of the starting gate. The XFR, though, promises to successfully go head-to-head with the Teutonic trio, BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, and Audi S6, as well as the new Cadillac CTS-V.

But the XFR is its own kind of cat. It doesn't feel or behave like an English car that's trying to ape a German car; it feels and behaves like an XF, a car that we greatly admire and named one of our 2009 All-Stars

The XFR doesn't completely disguise its capabilities, of course. It's distinguished from the regular XF by the usual raft of exterior design tweaks, including Nevis twenty-inch wheels, quad tailpipes, and body-color sill extensions. The large, black-mesh lower grille is flanked by chrome-lined air scoops, and hood vents feed air to the supercharged AJ-V8, which is mated to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

Inside, the XFR gets sport seats with electrically adjustable bolsters; a few discreet R badges; red pointers on the instrument dials; dark oak trim; a suedelike headliner; and some unique trim colors, including charcoal with red accents. It's all quite lovely, as the Brits like to say.

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